Hamlet: more theatrical ripple effects

Yesterday, I talked a little about the theatrical legacy of Hamlet’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Today, I just want to toss out a few more Danish descendants:

The first is a kind of prequel. Wittenberg, written by David Davalos in 2008, focuses on Prince Hamlet’s time at the University of Wittenberg and his interaction with two of his professors, Martin Luther and Doctor Faustus. The comedy, which–by the way–will be getting a run next month at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, is a prequel to not just Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but to Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus as well.

The second is a kind of sequel. In 1991, Lee Blessing wrote Fortinbras, which was well-received, making Time Magazine’s list of the best plays of that year. In this comedy, Fortinbras deals with the political and public relations fallout from the events at Elsinore, and because Fortinbras has a hard time believing the truth behind the events, he makes up stories of his own to explain away the bodies. The ghosts of those bodies, however, are not amused.

And the third is another retelling of the story from a different perspective, a la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. In this case, it’s not the dead courtiers who take center-stage, but rather the drowned Ophelia. According to the official synopsis of 2008’s Twelve Ophelias (a play with broken songs), by Caridad Svich, “Ophelia rises up out of the water dreaming of Pop-Tarts and other sweet things. She finds herself in a neo-Elizabethan Appalachian setting where Gertrude runs a brothel, Hamlet is called a Rude Boy, and nothing is what it seems. In this mirrored world of word-scraps and cold sex, Ophelia cuts a new path for herself.” I can’t tell from that synopsis if it’s a comedy like the first two…

Though I have read (but not seen) Fortinbras. I hadn’t even heard of Wittenberg or Twelve Ophelias up until this week. Would love to see them staged, though…

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